Birmingham’s Quartz, were a hard rock/heavy metal band who counted long-running Black Sabbath keyboard player Geoff Nicholls among their founding members. Formed in 1974 under the less than metal name of Bandy Legs, the band played club gigs and released a single (‘Bet You Can’t Dance’) for Jet records in 1976 before changing their name to Quartz (sounds a lot cooler doesn’t it?).
I first heard this album’s title track when the US Doom Metal band Orodruin recorded a cover version of it for their 2004 compilation CD Claw Tower… and Other Tales of Terror. It’s a fantastic track and it left me wondering what the original sounded like. A few years later, I heard the original version on Youtube and eventually bought a copy on CD. I have to say that over the last few years, Quartz have become one of my favourite classic bands. They’re pretty obscure these days, and most metal fans have never heard of them. Those in the know, however, continue to enjoy their music and the band recently reformed. There have been rumours of new material but nothing has surfaced as yet.
Stand Up and Fight is eight tracks of balls to the wall heavy metal. Simple as that. The album opens with the title track before launching into ‘Charlie Snow,’ an upbeat rocker warning of the all-too-real dangers of snorting cocaine. Track 3 ‘Can’t Say No To You’ has a mid-paced groove reminiscent of AC/DC, and could just as easily be about addiction as a woman. Side One closes with ‘Revenge,’ a dark, brooding heavy metal track who’s title says it all. The moody breakdown in the middle section could easily have come off a modern-day Wino album and has really stood the test of time well.
Side 2 wastes no time in turning up the heat with ‘Stoking Up The Fires of Hell,’ a 4-minute blast of classic metal that gives Black Sabbath themselves a run for their money. Sixth track ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Child’ is more Sabbath-esque rock riffage with a mid-paced breakdown after the second chorus that brings to mind their Never Say Die era, a sound that would have been current at the time. Track 7 ‘Questions’ is an attempt to unravel the meaning of life, handled with all the subtlety of a bulldozer. I wouldn’t have it any other way though. It’s a great track and keeps the energy up for the album closer ‘Wildfire,’ another Sabbath-esque heavy rocker themed around smoking marijuana.
Everything about this album says Heavy Metal, from the Frank Frazetta-esque cover art to the songs themselves. Eight tracks of macho, driving heavy rock completely devoid of any kind of thought for anyone else’s point of view. Quartz don’t bother with romance and deep feelings on this disc. There are no ballads. The name says it all – Stand Up And Fight or prepare to be flattened by the power of Quartz!
The band are best known for their self-titled 1977 debut, which was produced by fellow Brummie Tony Iommi (who also contributed guitar harmonies – you can tell!). Geoff Nicholls left Quartz in the late 1970’s to join Black Sabbath and he doesn’t feature on Stand Up and Fight.
There are classic rock/metal fans who deride this album and the follow-up, 1983’s decidedly cheesy Against All Odds. While I understand their criticisms, I personally don’t agree. I have enjoyed every Quartz record and each has it’s own good and bad points. As I said earlier, the band have remained in obscurity for many decades and they did not enjoy the commercial success of their peers Black Sabbath. This is just the way it goes and it certainly shouldn’t discourage curious younger listeners from giving them a go.
Sure, it’s probably cheesy and just a little bit misogynistic by today’s standards but so what? Driving home from work on a Friday night and looking forward to that well-earned first beer of the evening? You could do a lot worse than put this album in the stereo and turn up the volume!